A Name is an Unquiet City

Nonfiction, Rolando André López

“… that ‘illegitimate’ creativity of all Caribbean beings who inhabit those islands never wholly named.”
– Dafne Duchesne-Sotomayor

other names, other rooms

My grandmother’s oldest sister, C. M., never knew her biological father nor his wealth. He had taken a 15-year-old worker for himself. He, the plantation owner.

No one in the family remembers his name.

C. M. was raised by a man with whom she did not share genetic parentage. He loved her and her mother and his name was Ángel. Lydia, my grandmother, C. M’s younger sibling, was born Ángel’s daughter. Taught how to find a man with a heart. She married the white man who gave his family her blackness, her negritud, to his mother’s shame. His name was Israel. Who loved and disagreed and loved and disagreed with her.

These two names, Israel and Ángel, my grandmother Lydia fondly remembers.

Israel, now a portrait in the hall, remains in her. Cherished flame.

I never met C. M.


…en fin, I’ve been taking Prozac, Seroquel, and Buspirone.

Feeling Thriller, very Zombi.

As I write, the Monster breathes.

April 24 was a special day: my birthday! I am a Taurus.

I am healing. It’s been three years.

I have been asked, “How did you celebrate your birthday?”

I have said, “I spent it reading and writing poetry and working with a Breakbeat poet.”

If every day were my birthday, I’d be a poet every day. Be rebirth every day.

Born in 1990. Walter Mercado tells me the Taurus is on the Earth School to serve.

Says the Taurus needs to choose his words.

My time with Prozac is still too complex to describe. But on it, I read Edwidge Danticat’s books. I began writing this poem. I could say I turn to her in times of crisis. I say I turn to her name all the time. The text. How did the librarian from Argentina say it, All the names. And a precipitous plunge to the words inside.

Israel, a Promised name. When he died, he was in a hospital room in Florida.

I was in New York City, hunched over a table at a cafe by The Strand and its “18 miles of books;” by Lincoln Square, reading Danticat’s The Art of Death. Four days away from my twenty-eighth birthday. A Friday, 4/20.

This is not an essay where I find myself. This one’s about losing.

Before the call from my father, Israel was still asleep. It was fifty degrees, sunny, so say official reports about the weather that day in New York City. The cafe was indoors. Dancers amused crowds in Lincoln Square.

Page 30. “At eighty-two, he died of pneumonia in the stationmaster’s house at a small-town train station… His last words were said to be, ‘How do peasants die?’” Leo Tolstoy’s last words.

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Image: Anonymous, El Señor de las Esquípulas, ca. 1690-1710.